In honor of the screening of Goldstein at The Patio Theater on Friday night I am re-posting this review of the film which I wrote several years ago.


"I saw a man, he danced on the breakwater." The prophet Elijah gets his groove on down on the lake front.

“I saw a man, he danced on the breakwater.” The prophet Elijah gets his groove on down on the lake front.


This is very old news, but the always informative and funny blog of  Lynn Becker hipped me to the new section on Chicago in films that the brilliant folks who run Forgotten Chicago have started on their site, entitled Drama, Documentation and Discontinuity. As befits the subject of their blog, they concentrate on older films mostly from the “Daley I” drought years of the 50’s and 60’s.

Much like the rest of their work, the new section is a fascinating blend of historical info and trenchant meta-commentary. I was so inspired by their fine work that I finally rented Goldstein (1965), the first film by eclectic writer/director Philip Kaufman.

Although the film falters overall (as fabulous as Kaufman’s later work was, his debut project was an amateurish aping of French new wave film), the parts are greater than the whole and it functions as a valuable record of several important Chicago persons, places, and things (yes, a celebration of the noun!). Aside from the buildings and locations, Goldstein showcases some of the most talented actors and performers ever to call Chicago home, particularly those from the earliest days of Second City/Compass Players.

Some of the buildings not mentioned in Forgotten Chicago are:

Block 37 before it was razed, sat vacant for a few decades, and became home to the current monstrous structure that occupies the land.

Soldier Field- What a Spartan place it was back then! With nothing but uncomfortable looking bleachers ringing the inside of the classical coliseum.

A shot of the now-unused spotlight on top of the Palmolive Building blazing away (you can really see why residents of the John Hancock Building immediately put the kibosh on the lamp as they moved in just across the street.

An amusing chase sequence through a large sausage factory was also a treat.

As far as some of the amazing performers featured:

Del Close- One of the greatest improvisational gurus of all time and creator of the long form improvisational framework known as Harold, which revolutionized improvisation. Charna Halpern (and later Del himself) used it as the backbone of perhaps the most innovative and eclectic improv theater companies ever, the io. The long form also revitalized Second City when concepts central to it were integrated into main stage shows. Some time I’ll tell the story of how Del scared the utter living bejesus out of me when I was a young stand-up comic.

Viola Spolin– Those people whose young lives were rocked upon reading Improvisation For The Theater won’t need to ask who she is, everybody else needs to do some clicking. To sum it up, she conceived the first games and exercises that formed the foundation of what we know today as improvisation.

Nelson Algren– Yeah, that’s right, Nelson Freakin’ Algren. In all his brilliant prose writing, Simone De Beauvoir exciting resplendence. Right there in his authorial lair. Nelson tells a story whilst the camera pans around his apartment, lingering longingly over his array of nudie centerfolds scattered amidst the books, photos, and awards. The slow pan of Algren’s books is a valuable document in itself (I need to go back and freeze it again and jot all those titles down).

There also were quite a few other early SC alums in the film, including Severn Darden, Anthony Holland, and Jack Burns (from the comedy duo Burns and Shreiber).

Goldstein is a wonderful glimpse into many aspects of Chicago’s past. Just let it wash over you though, and don’t expect it to make any sense.

There are many shots of this man wandering through mid-1960's Chicago.
There are many shots of this man wandering through mid-1960’s Chicago.